Register for the AIS Summit Nov. 18

The Montana Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Program is hosting a virtual AIS Summit on Nov. 18, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks staff will present information about the 2020 AIS prevention, early detection and outreach programs and share plans for the 2021 season.

Persons interested in attending the AIS Summit can register here or contact the FWP fisheries office at 406-444-2440. Registration is free and closes on Nov. 17.

A Summary of the 2020 AIS program activities and achievements is available here. Anyone who wants to ask questions or provide feedback can submit comments prior to the virtual meeting using the registration link.

FWP hopes to have an in-person meeting next year to discuss program successes and challenges so Montana’s AIS program can continue to improve.  

Public Input Encouraged for Strategic Plan

Protect our Waters FWP is also seeking feedback on the draft AIS Strategic Plan Goals and Strategies. Participants at the 2019 AIS Summit in Helena provided feedback and ideas that were compiled into the draft plan. The draft AIS Strategic Plan Goals and Strategies can be found here or contact the FWP fisheries office at 406-444-2440. This is the initiation of the scoping process for the strategic plan and public input is an important part of the plan development.  Submit your comments on the AIS Strategic Plan Goals and Strategies here.To learn more, go to CleanDrainDryMT.com or call the FWP Aquatic Invasive Species Bureau at 406-444-2440.

Statewide Fisheries Management Program and Guide – September 17th

Montana offers a diversity of quality angling opportunities throughout the state. There are waters to please different types of angling interests, from cold water to warm water, and fly fishing to bait casting. There are places to harvest fish and places to pursue the trophy of a lifetime. Many of these attributes can be attributed to the quality of the fisheries habitat in Montana. Still, there are numerous challenges facing Montana’s fisheries including climate change, habitat alteration, and dewatering of streams. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is tasked with managing the state’s fishery resources and addressing these challenges. This Statewide Fisheries Management Program and Guide, the first of its kind for Montana, provides the framework and directions for accomplishing this task.

Click here to link to FWP download pages

FWP taking comment on 2021 fishing regulation proposals – August 26th.

FWP is accepting comment on proposed fishing regulations for 2021. The department has 20 proposed changes for 2021, with most changes involving minor corrections and clarifications to avoid confusion and inadvertent violations. 

One larger-scale proposal is requiring mandatory catch, kill, and report of all walleye captured in the Western Fishing District. The intent of this regulation is to prevent additional illegal introductions of walleye in western Montana and to potentially help the department detect illegal introductions and take action sooner. Noxon Reservoir and Cabinet Gorge Reservoir, where established walleye populations are already known to exist, would be exempt from this regulation. 

Another proposal would place a bag limit on crayfish harvested from McGregor Lake in NW Montana. McGregor Lake has a native crayfish population and there is growing concern that harvest for consumption as well as predation from illegally introduced smallmouth bass could have population scale impacts to the crayfish population. 

Other proposed changes involve clarification on use of live bait fish in the Central and Eastern Fishing Districts, improve consistency of kokanee salmon fishing regulations in central Montana, changing regulations for some new and existing kid’s fishing ponds, among several other relatively minor clarifications. 

To see all the proposed changes, please visit the FWP website at http://fwp.mt.gov/fish/publicComments/regsProposals.htm

The department will be taking comment on the proposed changes until Sept. 17. Comments can be submitted through the FWP website, emailed to fwpfsh@mt.gov, or sent via U.S. Mail to Fishing Regulations, P.O. Box 200701, Helena MT, 59620.

FWP seeks public comment on ice fishing contests – August 26th.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is seeking public comment on ice fishing contests proposed for the 2020-2021 season. Participants must comply with state fishing regulations, including daily and possession limits.

Applications for fishing contests may be approved, approved with conditions, or denied by the FWP Fisheries Division in Helena. Conditions placed on contests may help to minimize fish mortality, regulate harvest, reduce user conflicts, and/or require additional access site maintenance when needed.

Information on the proposed fishing contests can be found on the FWP Fishing Contest webpage or by calling 406-444-2449. All comments must be received on or before Sept. 14, 2020.

Comments may be mailed to FWP Fisheries Division, Attn: Fishing Contests, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701, or emailed to fwpfsh@mt.gov.

2021 FISHING REGULATION PROPOSALS – Western Fishing District Meeting – AUGUST 10TH.

**Page 24 add:Walleye: All Walleye caught must be killed immediately, kept and the entire fish turned into FWP. Anglers who catch Walleye in the Western Fishing District are required to report the catch to FWP within 24 hours (406-752-5501). Anglers may be asked to provide their full name, ALS number, phone number, date and time of capture, and location. Anglers are required to turn in the whole Walleye to a FWP office within 10 days of capture (frozen is allowed) during regular business hours.

Proposed changes Western Montana regarding Walleye. Proposed changes including Noxon.. 

The Commission will meet via a zoom meeting, Thursday, Aug. 13. However, the best way to comment is via email to:  fwcomm@mt.gov.

http://fwp.mt.gov/doingBusiness/insideFwp/commission/meetings/agenda.html?coversheet&topicId=61775951 (click on the link to review the proposal for all of Eastern Montana)

  • One item on the agenda is to consider issuing a mandatory kill order for all walleyes in Region 1. At least according to the paper, that includes Noxon.  
  • This is a similar kill order issued for Swan Lake and Upper Thompson Lake when walleyes were discovered.  But for all of Western Montana!  

Inspection Stations Busier Than Ever – July 14th

As of June 30, more than 44,000 watercraft have been inspected.  Watercraft inspection stations are busier than ever, with early season numbers higher than previous years. Out of state boat traffic is also higher, presenting an elevated risk of AIS transported into the state.

Inspectors have intercepted 19 mussel fouled vessels at the Anaconda, Dillon, Flowing Wells, Hardin and Nashua watercraft inspection stations. 

Watercraft inspection data is available on the AIS Dashboard and will be updated weekly.

Read the newsletter.

19 mussel boats

AIS Monitoring Update

faucet snail The AIS monitoring team has begun collecting AIS early detection samples for the 2020 season.To date, 389 of 435 collected samples from Montana have been analyzed for mussel veligers.For Tiber reservoir 19 samples have been analyzed so far this season with no dreissenid veliger detections.Faucet snails were identified in two new locations in northwestern Montana in Smith and Lost Coon Lakes. Faucet snails are known to occur in the Flathead Basin as well as several other locations in the state.FWP is working with the Custer Gallatin National Forest to eradicate curlyleaf pondweed (CLPW) in three newly acquired ponds on Slip and Slide Creek near Gardiner. Because the dams are at risk of failure, the Forest Service plans to drain the ponds and they are taking precautions to reduce the spread of the weeds downstream. This is the only known population of CLPW within the Yellowstone River Drainage in Montana.

Report Snapping Turtle in Western Montana

FWP is asking the public to report sightings of snapping turtles in western Montana, especially the Clark Fork, Bitterroot and Blackfoot watershed.  In Montana snapping turtles are native to locations east of the Continental Divide but are not native west of the Divide. Snapping turtles likely ended up in western waterways through illegal release of aquarium pets.

Snapping turtles can cause significant harm to native populations of frogs, snakes, ducks, fish, and turtles outside of their native range.
Read more and report sightings here.

snapping turtle

Big Sky Watershed Corps Share AIS Message

Brant Dupree with Rocky Mountain Outfitters of Kalispell Big Sky Watershed Corps member Brant Dupree has been visiting marinas and retail boating and fishing stores in western Montana to share information about Montana’s aquatic invasive species prevention program. The visits focus on AIS prevention, education, and the distribution of outreach materials to their staff and customers, with the overall goal of increasing partnerships and knowledge about the AIS program in Montana.For the past two years, UC3 has hosted an AmeriCorps member to implement an AIS Industry Outreach Project. Over the course of the season, the AmeriCorps member (co-hosted this year with the Missoula County Weed District) will meet with over 120 industry partners.
Abby S at Flathead County Science Fair Big Sky Watershed Corps members Abby Schmeichel and Emily McGurit were able to share the Flathead Lake Aquatic Research Education program (FLARE) with teachers and classrooms before Covid-19 impacted in-person meetings. The lessons have been adapted for teachers to use with students who had internet access and those who don’t.They also educated students, teachers and community members at the Flathead County Science Fair and Dayton Family Science
Night.Learn more about AIS outreach.

>> Download AIS Newsletter as a PDF document

Makoshika State Park Waterline Project Decision NoticeJune 4th

Montana State Parks recently completed a Draft Environmental Assessment for the proposed waterline improvement project at Makoshika State Park.  During the 2019 State of Montana legislative session, $1.3 million in bonded funds were approved for the extension of the municipal water system from the City of Glendive into Makoshika State Park as part of a statewide infrastructure improvement initiative.  Currently, the city water service reaches as far as the park visitor center near the entrance, which is the only location throughout the entire park that visitors have access to potable water.

In accordance with the Environmental Assessment process, a decision must be rendered by FWP which addresses the concerns and issues identified for this proposed action.  FWP finds there to be no significant impacts on the human and physical environments associated with this project. Therefore, it is concluded that the Environmental Assessment is the appropriate level of analysis, and that an Environmental Impact Statement is not required.

After review of this proposal, it is the decision of FWP to accept the draft Environmental Assessment as supplemented by this Decision Notice and changes herein as final, and to recommend proceeding with the proposed Makoshika State Park Waterline project.

The Final Environmental Assessment may be viewed on FWP’s Internet website: http://www.fwp.mt.gov or be obtained from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Region 7 Headquarters, P.O. Box 1630, Miles City, MT 59301, (406) 234-0900.

FWP to open offices, visitor centers to customers – June 3

As the state moves into Phase 2 of Gov. Steve Bullock’s Reopening the Big Sky Plan, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks offices and visitor centers will open to the public June 3.FWP offices have been closed since late March due to Montana’s COVID-19 pandemic response. As the public returns, strict adherence to Phase 2 guidelines will be critical: stay at home if you feel sick, make sure to frequently wash and sanitize your hands, and maintain at least six feet of distance from other people.FWP front offices around the state will be set up to help facilitate these simple guidelines, including marking floors to help keep people spaced out, providing hand sanitizer for customers, and glass dividers between front counter staff and customers.“We’re looking forward to having our customers back in our regional and local lobbies and visitor centers,” said FWP Director Martha Williams. “We’ve worked hard to prepare our buildings to keep our public and staff safe.”Please note that many FWP employees are still working remotely, so for business beyond front desk license purchases and other related information, please plan to reach out to the appropriate staff member directly by phone or email or ask front desk staff for contact information.For more information on FWP’s COVID-19 response, please go online to fwp.mt.gov/COVID19.

BOR Campground update – from President Elect – May 18th

I had a very good phone conversation this morning with Mr. Steve Davies Montana Manager for the Bureau of Reclamation in regards to the status of the Montana BOR campgrounds. Mr. Davies informed me that they are making preparations and evaluating daily when to open the BOR campgrounds to overnight camping. He also mentioned that the contract labor that BOR hires to maintain the facilities at the BOR campgrounds are all set to go.

Currently they do not have a firm date on when the campgrounds may open. He does feel that the BOR campgrounds will be open to overnight camping before the end of May if not sooner.

Scott Keller – President Elect

Montana Boat Ramp Information – May

Information for boat ramps are available on the BOR site at http://www.usbr.gov/gp/boat/index.html

FWP Website – May

If you would like to help FWP redesign their website, please click here to take a survey.

Boat ramp fees for Upper Missouri River Members – May 11

*The public hearing is scheduled for May 18th at 10:15 am.  It will be in the Commissioners Room in the basement of the Court House.

**The online video link is,  https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=broadwater+county+commissioners

The Broadwater County Commission is accepting public comment on the implementation of a $5.00

daily boat launch fee, or a $50.00 seasonal boat launch pass for the Silos Recreation Area.

The Broadwater Bay boat launch and parking lot project has been completed. You will notice it has been rebuilt and treated with stay-dust. This was financed by the Broadwater County Trust Board. The

launch fees will help to pay for on-going repair, maintenance, and recreation-related improvements.

Current boat launch fees around Canyon Ferry Reservoir start at $10.00 daily boat launch fee and $50.00 or $100.00 seasonal fee depending on which Marina is used.

The comment period will run from April 27th to May 18th. A public hearing is planned for Monday, May 18th,2020 at 10:15am (barring further issues with COVID-19). Further details will be announced on the upcoming Commissioners Meeting Agenda.

Written comments can be sent to Broadwater County Commissioners at 515 Broadway, Townsend MT. 59644. Email comments can be sent to commissioners@co.broadwater.mt.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 24, 2020 – Updates to COVID-19-related closures and suspensions

People looking to get outside and enjoy spring will continue to have ample opportunities with Gov. Steve Bullock’s phased approach to reopening the state, which was announced April 22.

Most of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ sites typically open and operational at this time of year remain so. This includes all FWP fishing access sites, most state parks and those wildlife management areas that don’t have seasonal closures.

People heading outside still need to keep in mind Montana’s social distancing directives. Per Gov. Bullock’s “Reopening the Big Sky” plan, all who recreate outdoors should “avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.” They are further asked to “exercise frequent sanitation protocols if public facilities are open” and continue to follow all previously established hygiene measures. For more information on Gov. Bullock’s plan, please visit COVID19.mt.gov.

The following FWP updates are in response to Gov. Bullock’s plan:

• Overnight camping opportunities will resume at most FWP fishing access sites and state parks on May 1.

• Campers between May 1-15 may encounter reduced amenities or limited services that are typical for the opening of early-season recreational sites. Please check the FWP website for specific site restrictions or closures.

• Group sites, including fishing piers, will open May 1.

• At all sites, as in other aspects of life, social distancing guidelines must be strictly followed.

• Visitor centers, park offices and FWP lobbies are still closed to the public at this time.

• Bannack State Park will remain closed until further notice.

• Float recreation on the Smith River will resume May 5. Between now and then, FWP staff will continue to work with local and federal partners on ways to safely allow recreation in this popular state park and river corridor once recreation activities resume.

• Out-of-state travelers are still required to follow the governor’s 14-day quarantine directive when they come to Montana, as they carry the risk of spreading COVID-19 to Montana residents. Guidance for those directives can be found at fwp.mt.gov/covid19. The directives include the requirements that those in quarantine cannot leave for groceries, recreation, work or any other activity.

• Paddlefish season (yellow tag) closures on the Yellowstone and Lower Missouri rivers are still in effect.

• Paddlefish season (white tag) on the Upper Missouri River will run as usual from May 1 through June 15. However, this year there will be no snag-and-release opportunity. Visit fwp.mt.gov for information about other paddlefishing opportunities later in the year.

• Most wildlife management areas will remain under their normal seasonal closures until the standard May 15 date.

• The suspension of nonresident spring hunting for turkey and black bear expired April 24. As in other circumstances, out-of-state travelers must follow the governor’s 14-day quarantine directive.

• Hunter education class closures will extend through at least May 7. FWP is working to develop other class opportunities to meet the needs of students, and still align with social distancing guidelines and restrictions on the size of gatherings. As those logistics are finalized, more information will be available.

As the governor’s plan progresses through its three phases, FWP will announce further updates. For more information on FWP’s response to COVID-19, please visit fwp.mt.gov/covid19. For more information on Gov. Bullock’s response, visit https://covid19.mt.gov/.

Bureau of Reclamation restricts camping and group use at facilities east of the divide in Montana – Day use areas remain open BILLINGS, Mont. – Because the health and safety of the public and our employees remains our number one priority, the Bureau of Reclamation is temporarily restricting overnight camping and group use areas at Reclamation-managed recreation areas east of the continental divide in Montana. Boat launching ramps and day use will remain open where possible, however courtesy boat docks are not in place at this time. Specifically, the following temporary restrictions are in place until further notice: Canyon Ferry Reservoir • Day use areas open. • No overnight camping. • Group Use Sites are closed. • Bathroom facilities at all locations are closed due to public, contractor, and employee safety concerns. • The Marinas remain closed for the season until approximately mid-May. This opening is tentative and may be re-evaluated depending on the COVID-19 situation Tiber Reservoir (Lake Elwell) • Day use areas open. • No overnight camping. • Group Use Sites are closed. • Bathroom facilities at all locations are closed due to public, contractor, and employee safety concerns. • The Tiber Marina remains closed for the season until approximately mid-May. This opening is tentative and may be re-evaluated depending on the COVID-19 situation. Fresno and Nelson Reservoirs • Day use areas open. • No overnight camping. • Group Use Sites are closed. • Bathroom facilities at all locations are closed due to public, contractor, and employee safety concerns. Clark Canyon Reservoir • Day use areas open. • No overnight camping. • Group Use Sites are closed. • Bathroom facilities at all locations are closed due to public, contractor, and employee safety concerns. Those already occupying camping spots will be allowed up to 72 hours to vacate overnight camping sites. The closings are all tentative and may be re-evaluated depending on developments related to COVID-19. As a reminder, social distancing and other guidance put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The annual Fort Peck walleye spawn will go on without volunteers – April 13th

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Fort Peck Reservoir walleye spawn/egg-take effort will be completed using only Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 6 staff. Unlike prior years, no volunteers will be participating in this popular spring event.
FWPs’ number one priority is the health and safety of the public and its employees. FWP Fisheries Chief, Eileen Ryce, determined that with the current social distancing guidelines, this was the best decision for all those involved. Many other projects across the state that oftentimes use volunteers, in addition to FWP personnel, have also been reformed this year.

Certified Boater training for Tiber Reservoir now available online – April 13th

Certified Boater training for Tiber Reservoir is available online at cleandraindrymt.com. While Fish, Wildlife & Parks offices are closed to the public, persons interested in applying for the Certified Boater designation must complete the training online.

Silos Boat Ramp – For immediate release – April 8th

The boat launch parking area at the Silo’s (Canyon Ferry Reservoir) is closed starting April 8th for approximately 2 weeks to make improvements. The main Silos boat launch is closed but the south ramp is open. The recreation area south of Broadwater Bay remains open for use. The north day-use area and campground units 1-10 are also closed during this time.

We appreciate your patience and understanding during this brief closure to improve the launch area. These improvements will make the boating experience better and improve safety.

The Broadwater County Trust Board and Broadwater County have partnered to make these improvements happen.

If you have any questions, please call the Silo’s KOA 266-3100

Happy Fishing!!

Paddlefish season on Yellowstone, Lower Missouri canceled; still opportunity on Upper Missouri – April 8th

The 2020 paddlefish seasons on the Yellowstone and Lower Missouri rivers (yellow tag) are canceled in response to Gov. Steve Bullock’s extension of the directives for social distancing and non-resident quarantine to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

As of now, paddlefish season on the Upper Missouri River from Fort Benton downstream to Fort Peck Dam (white tag) will remain in place and the drawing for these limited tags occurred April 6. The fishery opens May 1 and is conducted in a more dispersed manner. There are also no proposed changes to the archery paddlefish season (blue tag) in the Dredge Cuts below Fort Peck Dam. Both of these opportunities are subject to change if angler congestion becomes an issue.

Anglers heading to these locations are advised that United States Army Corps of Engineer campgrounds around Fort Peck Lake and Dredge Cuts, and the Bureau of Land Management campground at the James Kipp Recreation Area on the Upper Missouri River, are closed to overnight camping due to COVID-19 concerns. Visitors are encouraged to contact these agencies and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge for up-to-date information regarding any restrictions before traveling to these areas.

The yellow tag season, which runs from May 15-June 30, draws large groups of anglers to Intake Fishing Access Site, Sidney Bridge, Richland Park and other areas. Many people travel from all over the United States and Canada to participate.

“The decision to cancel the yellow tag season on the Yellowstone River is based on the reality that paddlefishing here is the opposite of social distancing,” said FWP Fisheries Division Administrator Eileen Ryce. “The risk of spreading COVID-19 through paddlefishing is not acceptable given the governor’s guidelines for social distancing.”

During the 2018 season, 718 paddlefish anglers (92.5% of all anglers) fished from three public access sites on the Yellowstone River during 15 harvest days. Anglers represented 156 different cities, 18 states and South Africa. Residency of anglers for the top six states included

(% by state): Montana (66.5%), Wyoming (19.5%), North Dakota (5.6%), Colorado (1.6%), South Dakota (1.3%), Idaho (1.0%), and 13 additional states (3.5% collectively).

The closure will last the entire season and applies to both harvest and catch-and-release days. Aside from a temporary closure due to flooding concerns in 2011, FWP has never had to cancel a paddlefish season.

“We understand the importance of the Yellowstone River paddlefish season to the local communities and anglers,” said FWP director Martha Williams. “This closure isn’t made lightly and is done with the health and well-being of our communities and residents in mind.”

Anglers who have already purchased the yellow tag will be eligible for refunds. Those anglers should contact the FWP Licensing Call Center at 406-444-2950 to process a refund.

For the time being, anyone fishing or recreating in Montana is encouraged to adhere to social distancing guidelines and travel recommendations issued by Gov. Bullock, which can be found on Montana’s COVID-19 website at https://covid19.mt.gov/.

Most of FWP’s outdoor facilities including most state parks and fishing access sites remain open for day-use-only recreation. Responsible social distancing is recommended, if a parking lot at a fishing access site or state park is full, consider another place to recreate. Also, it is a good idea to recreate in your local area.

Currently group-use sites and campgrounds are closed. Fishing piers are also closed to all but handicap access due to the risk of high congregation.

Maintenance at FWP facilities will be cut back and public opportunities limited:

· Overnight camping will not be allowed.

· Visitor center closures will be extended at least through April 24.

· Bathrooms may be limited.

· Sites will be regularly patrolled by enforcement staff. For more information on FWP’s response to COVID-19, visit http://fwp.mt.gov/covid19.


FWP suspends float recreation on Smith River through April 24

To comply with current directives from Gov. Steve Bullock on social distancing, staying at home, and for the 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is suspending all float recreation and camping on the Smith River through April 24.

“I realize that this closure may present a hardship to some, and I do not issue it lightly,” said FWP Director Martha Williams. “However, this is necessary to prevent the further introduction of COVID-19 into rural areas that have as of yet seen few infections and which rely on the services of small rural hospitals and medical facilities.”

The Smith River is currently under a closure due to ice.

The Smith River is a world-famous destination for floaters but is in one of the more rural parts of Montana, starting outside of White Sulphur Springs and flowing into the Missouri River near Great Falls. Permits to float the river are issued in late winter through a lottery system and are difficult to draw.

For 2020 permit holders who drew floating permits during this period, if the permit holder so chooses, FWP will honor the same float date in the 2021 floating season.

This suspension will be reassessed as the April 24 date approaches.

For more information on FWP’s response to COVID-19, go online to fwp.mt.gov. For more information on COVID-19 in Montana, go to COVID19.mt.gov


FWP closures at group-use sites include fishing piers

As a reminder to stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing guidelines should be followed at all Fish, Wildlife & Parks sites. Keep your distance from fellow recreators. FWP has closed group-use sites. This includes all fishing piers at Montana state parks, piers at fishing access sites and piers at wildlife management areas due to the risk of high congregation.

While state parks, fishing access sites and a few wildlife management areas (check for seasonal closures) remain open at this time, maintenance at FWP facilities will be cut back and public opportunities limited:

· Overnight camping will not be allowed. Campgrounds will be systematically closed to give current campers 72-hour notice.

· Group use sites will be closed, including playgrounds and fishing piers.

· Visitor center closures will be extended at least through April 10.

· Bathrooms may be limited.

· Sites will be regularly patrolled by enforcement staff.

If a parking lot at a fishing access site or state park is full, consider another place to recreate. Also, it is a good idea to recreate in your local area. For more information on FWP’s response to COVID-19, visit http://fwp.mt.gov/covid19.

Additional information on COVID-19 is also available online, on DES social media, and via phone:

· Covid19.mt.gov

· Twitter @MontanaDES

· Facebook Facebook.com/MontanaDES

· Instagram @MontanaDES406

Analysis Reveals Origin of Illegally Introduced Walleyes in Upper Thompson Lake – March 24, 2020

Kalispell, MT — An analysis of two walleyes found last year in Upper Thompson Lake confirmed the non-native fish were illegally introduced on separate occasions from the Lower Clark Fork reservoir system.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists received the results of an otolith microchemistry analysis of the walleyes that revealed both fish were first-generation illegal introductions and were not born in Upper Thompson Lake, a popular fishery that is part of the Thompson Chain of Lakes west of Marion along U.S. Highway 2.

The analysis indicates both fish likely originated from Noxon Reservoir near Trout Creek and were illegally introduced on two separate occasions during the summers of 2015 and 2018.

“This is concerning because it was not a one-time attempt to illegally introduce walleye in this lake. This is an ongoing problem and threat to a prized fishery,” Brian Stephens, FWP fisheries biologist, said.

Any walleye caught on Upper, Middle, and Lower Thompson lakes must be killed immediately, kept and the entire fish turned into FWP. Anglers must report the catch within 24 hours to (406) 752-5501.

Anyone with possible information on the walleyes in Upper Thompson Lake are encouraged to call 1-800-TIP MONT. Callers do not need to identify themselves and may be eligible for a cash reward.

FWP biologists discovered the two walleyes in October 2019 during a routine fisheries survey. It was the first documented detection of the predacious non-native fish in Lincoln County. Both fish were female and measured 18 and 21 inches, respectively.

Moving live fish from one body of water to another is a crime. There are important reasons for this law:

  • Introduced fish may compete with native or already established species.
  • Introduced fish may behave differently in a new habitat — they may not improve and are likely to harm the fishery.
  • Introduced fish may hybridize (interbreed) with established species.
  • Introduced fish may carry and spread new diseases and parasites.
  • Introduced fish may alter the existing habitat.
  • Illegal introductions can raise management costs by requiring planting more or larger fish or even chemical rehabilitation to maintain or restore the fishery. The result is less fishing opportunity and higher costs for anglers.

For more information, visit fwp.mt.gov

Hearing on replacement licensing rule changes switched to teleconference – March 20 Th

The administrative rule hearing scheduled for Monday, March 23 at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks headquarters in Helena will now be a teleconference hearing.

The call in number will be (425) 436-6384 and callers will need to type in 709771 to get into the hearing. The call will start at 6 p.m.

The proposed rule changes will make it more convenient for customers to replace their hunting licenses and permits during this time of transition to regular paper for licenses and permits. The department anticipates an increase in need for replacement licenses during this transition.

Currently, license holders can replace a hunting license or permit that is lost, stolen or destroyed by signing an affidavit and submitting the affidavit at an FWP office or license provider and limits the number of replacements to two within a two-year period.

The proposed rule amendments remove the number of reprints allowed and the requirement for customers to sign an affidavit to receive a replacement license or permit.

The language of the proposed rule amendments can be found on FWP’s website at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/rules/pn_0302.html.

In addition, public comment can be submitted in writing to FWP, Attention Licensing, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, MT 59620-0701 or emailed to FWPLicensingRules@mt.gov. The deadline for public comment is March 27.

Purchase hunting and fishing licenses online; protocols in place at FWP offices – March 17th

In accordance with guidelines for social distancing related to COVID-19 and to protect the public as well as staff, Fish, Wildlife & Park strongly encourages hunters and anglers to make licensing purchases online at fwp.mt.gov. For those who need assistance with their purchase, please call the FWP licensing center at 406-444-2950 or your regional or area office.

FWP regional and headquarters offices remain open, but visitors will be required to follow protocol to reduce the risk of exposure to and spread of COVID-19. These protocols include:

· Entry to the lobby is limited and monitored by an FWP staff member.

· Visitors must wait outside until notified by FWP staff to enter.

· No cash will be accepted, only checks and credit or debit cards.

· The April 1 deadline for deer and elk, the May 1 deadline for moose, sheep, goat and bison, and the June 1 deadline for Elk B, Deer B, and antelope will remain in effect. These deadlines are set in statute.

· Please check with your local FWP office for hours of operation. To purchase licenses online, go to fwp.mt.gov and click on “License: Buy/Apply.” For more information on FWP’s response to COVID-19, go to http://fwp.mt.gov/covid19.

Know the phases of cold water immersion – March 12th

With ice coming off Montana’s lakes and rivers it’s important to remember that cold water can be deadly. If you are recreating on or around water this spring, remember to wear a life jacket and always tell someone where you are going and when you plan on returning.

Here are the phases of cold water immersion:

  • Cold shock (initial entry to 5 minutes): Gasping for breath and hyperventilation are natural reactions to cold water. Try to get your breathing under control and avoid panicking.
  • Cold Incapacitation & Swim Failure (5 to 30 minutes): During this time, you will lose dexterity and grip strength.  Cooling of arms and legs impairs the ability to swim. Even the best swimmers cannot continue to function in cold water.
  • Hypothermia: Cooling of the body’s core temperature eventually results in loss of consciousness. How quickly hypothermia sets in depends on the water temperature, body type, clothing and behavior. Always seek medical attention right away.

If you have any questions, please contact Sara Smith, Boating Education Coordinator for the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Recreational Boating Safety Program, at 406-444-5280 or sarsmith@mt.gov.

Launch restrictions lifted at Canyon Ferry Reservoir

Restrictions on Canyon Ferry reservoir boat launches have been removed allowing all boaters to access all boat ramps this year. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks sought to remove the launch restrictions after three years of testing resulted in no detections of invasive quagga or zebra mussels.

The discovery of invasive mussel larvae in Tiber reservoir and a suspect detection of Canyon Ferry reservoir prompted restrictions on boating access in 2017. Boaters were required to launch at designated boat ramps and go through a decontamination station when exiting the water.

Regional guidelines allow for the delisting of a suspect waterbody and the removal of the mandatory exit inspections if three years of monitoring show no detections of invasive mussels.

Restrictions on Tiber Reservoir will remain in place for at least two more years.

Last year, decontamination stations operated at four boat ramps on Canyon Ferry and conducted 7,920 inspections.

Watercraft inspections will be significantly reduced on Canyon Ferry, but FWP will maintain an inspection station at the Silos boat ramp and a roving crew that will operate at high-use boat ramps in the Missouri river system.

“With the recent discovery of adult mussels in a North and South Dakota, our mission to keep Montana’s waters free of mussels is more important than ever,” said FWP’s AIS Bureau Chief Thomas Woolf. “Boat owners and anglers need to do their part to protect our waters from invasive species and make sure their watercraft and gear are clean, drained and dry.”

Boat owners and anglers should follow the principles of clean, drain, dry to help protect our waters:

• Clean all mud and debris from the watercraft, trailer, waders and fishing equipment.
• Pull drain plugs and make sure all compartments, bilges and ballasts are drained.
• Dry out watercraft, including dry wells, storage areas and compartments

For more information, visit CleanDrainDryMT.com or call 406-444-2440.

FWP Makes Decision Regarding Conservation Easement to Protect Habitat Along the Kootenai River near Troy

Conservation project would protect a key movement corridor for fish and wildlife species

Kalispell, MT — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is recommending the Fish and Wildlife Commission approve the purchase of a conservation easement on the Wild River Conservation Easement Project in Lincoln County.

As proposed in Alternative B of an environmental assessment (EA), the recommendation would protect approximately 50 acres of important fish and wildlife habitat along the Kootenai River just northwest of Troy, Montana.

FWP released a draft EA for public comment from January 29 to February 17, 2020. FWP received 26 public comments. All issues and concerns raised are addressed in the decision notice.

The property is owned by The Vital Ground Foundation, which has been working over the last several years to purchase this property and protect it from residential development. The project is part of an area identified by biologists as the best linkage corridor for grizzly bears between the Purcell and Cabinet Mountains in the Cabinet-Yaak recovery area. FWP conserved a large portion of this linkage in 2012 with a 28,000-acre conservation easement in the Kootenai Valley. Vital Ground is working to conserve the remaining gaps in this area. This project would continue FWP’s collaborative effort by helping Vital Ground conserve this property and its important riparian and upland habitat.

Vital Ground would continue to own and manage the land while FWP would hold a conservation easement that would preclude future residential or commercial development and ensure the property is managed to benefit fish and wildlife habitat in perpetuity. Public access to the property would be allowed for fishing and bird watching opportunities. The conservation easement would not require Vital Ground to provide hunting access on this property due to the property’s small size and the proximity to U.S. Highway 2 and neighboring residences.

Copies of the decision notice are available at the FWP office, 490 N. Meridian Rd., Kalispell; Montana State Library, 1515 E. 6th Ave., Helena; FWP State Headquarters, 1420 E. 6th Ave., Helena; the FWP website at http://fwp.mt.gov/news/publicNotices/decisionNotices/; and available for viewing at local libraries.

For more information, contact Kris Tempel (406-751-4573; ktempel@mt.gov).

FWP looks to improve customer service with two changes to 2020 licenses

Hunters and anglers can expect a few changes this year when they buy their 2020 licenses starting March 1.

The most visible change Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks customers will see is a change to license paper. Starting this year, both licenses and carcass tags will be printed on normal-sized paper, and license buyers will be able to print them at home.

For years, FWP licenses and tags have been produced on weather-resistant paper. However, this paper is not only expensive, but requires printing technology so outdated that it’s almost impossible to replace. The switch to standard 8.5 by 11-inch paper will provide significant savings and ultimately be easier for customers.

What this means is hunters won’t have to wait for special permits or licenses to come in the mail from FWP, but rather will be able to print them at home or at their local license provider.

This change also will reinforce the ability in Montana to have your license electronically on your mobile device and not printed out in your pocket. While carcass tags still need to be printed out, other licenses, such as a fishing license, do not. If checked in the field, this electronic version of your license is perfectly legal.

FWP recommends that people carry small plastic bags with them while hunting, and place validated carcass tags in the bags before attaching them to an animal. Small plastic bags ideal for this application will be available at all license providers, but any small sandwich bag will work.

Additionally, in 2020, hunters applying for licenses or permits will be able to do so online or at an FWP office. Mail-in applications will no longer be accepted.

With modern technology, the number of online applications continues to steadily grow. Eighty-six percent of Montana hunters now choose this method.  The small percentage of mail-in applications creates a time-consuming, expensive and inefficient delay in the license-drawing process. Mail-in applications must be entered manually in the licensing system, leaving room for human error and delays. 

Customers who still look for written guidance to help them through the application process will be able to find information sheets online or at an FWP office in the coming weeks. These information sheets will not be accepted as applications.

This simple change means that drawing results will now be available two weeks after the application deadline, rather than six weeks, allowing hunters to begin making plans for the upcoming season that much earlier.

New Walleye and Perch Regulations Now in Effect on Holter Reservoir

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Anglers are reminded of a regulation change that began Jan. 1 for walleye and perch fishing at Holter Reservoir south of Great Falls.

Yellow perch limits are now 25 daily and in possession.

Walleye limits are now five daily, only one larger than 25 inches; and the possession limit is twice the daily limit.

The changes will be listed in the new fishing regulations, which will be out in time for the new license year that begins March 1.

New hunting and fishing licenses that are required starting March 1 are usually available for sale in mid-February.

Walleyes Unlimited is looking for a few good photos!

How would you like to show off your best catch for 2020 and be on the front page of Walleyes Unlimited website!? Submit your photos and story to our webmaster and good luck!

What is the Certified Boater Program?

  • The Certified Boater program was created to ease the inspection process for boat owners and decrease the volume of boats at decontamination stations at Canyon Ferry and Tiber Reservoirs. It allows watercraft inspectors to focus on boats traveling between many different waterbodies. 
  • A Certified Boater can depart from the reservoir without going through a full inspection and hot wash if their next boating trip is on this reservoir. 
  • A Certified Boater can access all OPEN boat ramps within their designated reservoir.
  • Boaters must register each year to be in the Certified Boater Program.
  • You can complete the certification process online. You must read the tutorial, pass the test, complete a registration form, and sign a contract agreeing to abide by the Certified Boater rules.  Remember, you’ll need your vessel and trailer licenses numbers and description of all vessels to complete certification. 
    • Your Certified Boater decals will be mailed to you within 5-working days.  If you want to complete the certification in person, you will need to travel to an FWP regional office to complete the certification process and receive your decals. Remember to bring your vessel and trailer licenses numbers and description of all vessels.

How do I become a certified boater?

New for 2019. You can complete the certification process online. You must read the tutorial, pass the test, complete a registration form, and sign a contract agreeing to abide by the Certified Boater rules.  Remember, you’ll need your vessel and trailer licenses numbers and description of all vessels to complete certification. Your Certified Boater decals will be mailed to you within 5-working days. 

If you want to complete the certification in person, you will need to travel to an FWP regional office to complete the certification process and receive your decals. Remember to bring your vessel and trailer licenses numbers and description of all vessels.

To be certified, you need to: Click here to visit FWP website for certification

  1. Choose either Canyon Ferry or Tiber as your designated area. You cannot be certified for both.
  2. Take the online test. A passing score (80%) will allow you to register your watercraft(s).
    1. NOTE: Internet Explorer is not supported for the certification. Please use another browser.
  3. Register your watercraft(s) online.
  4. You will receive your decals in the mail within 5 working days.

1 Comment

Jerry Peterson

November 2, 2020 at 3:27 pm

Hi my name is Jerry Peterson I live in Missoula MT. I wish somebody would fix the camera and clean the lens at hell creek camp ground. I look at it everyday all year long.

Leave a Reply